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Cricket’s all time alphabetical ‘U/V’ team

Michael Vaughan's plan to save Test cricket is flawed.
Roar Guru
18th December, 2013
14

After a three month hiatus while I wasted my long service leave watching the Australian cricket team in England, then held my breath for the current series, it’s time to finish the Alphabet XI series given there are only two teams to go.

The last team to take the crease was the ‘T’ team. Given that only 10 Us have played Tests, I was forced to make a composite U/V team.

1. George Ulyett
2. Michael Vaughan (c)
3. Polly Umrigar
4. Gundappa Vishwanath
5. Dilip Vengsarkar
6. Bryan Valentine
7. Kruger Van Wyk (wk)
8. Chaminda Vaas
9. Hedley Verity
10. Bill Voce
11. Derek Underwood

The first thing you might notice is that the main attack are all left handers.

I actually left Derek Underwood out of my original team (for Albert Vogler or maybe Venkat) but that seemed somewhat daft for a team drawn from such a limited pool.

In the end, with Ulyett and Umrigar more than capable bowlers, “Deadly” got the nod.

Amazingly, two other high quality lefties in Daniel Vettori and Alf Valentine didn’t get a look in either.

Some more on each player:

1. George Ulyett
England, RHB, RF, 25 Tests, 949 runs at 24.33, one 100, 50 wickets at 20.40

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A first Tester and a fine all-rounder, Ulyett retired having played more Tests than any other player.

His finest innings was 149 opening at the MCG in 1882 (he was out with the England score on 239).

Two years later at Lord’s, he bowled England to victory with 7/36 in Australia’s second innings.

His Test career ended when his Yorkshire refused to release him from a County fixture to play the Oval Test in 1890.

Sadly he died of pneumonia at 46, only a handful of years after he had played his last first-class match for Yorkshire.

2. Michael Vaughan (c)
England, RHB, 82 Tests (51 capt), 5,719 runs at 41.44, 18 100s

Most famous as the captain who finally won the Ashes back in 2005, Vaughan was also a highly accomplished classical batsman who scored 1,481 Test runs at 62 in 2002 (including 633 runs in an otherwise demoralised England team during the 2002/3 Ashes).

His batting fell away in the last few years of his career as a chronic knee injury affected his batting. He is now an inveterate Tweeter.

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3. Polly Umrigar
India, RHB, RM, 59 Tests (8 capt), 3,631 runs at 42.22, 12 100s, 35 wickets at 42.09

Umrigar was India’s greatest batsman of the ’50s and ’60s, retiring with all the Indian batting aggregate records.

While his performances against the strong Australian and England sides of the era were modest, he excelled against the West Indies, scoring over 1000 Test runs in his two tours there despite India not winning a single match.

His bowling was also useful. Indeed, in his penultimate Test in Port-of-Spain in 1962 he scored 172* and took 5/107 in 56 overs. Alas, it was not enough to prevent a five-nil series whitewash.

4. Gundappa Vishwanath
India, RHB, 91 Tests (two capt), 6,080 runs at 41.93, 14 100s

Vishy was considered a finer batsman than his brother-in-law, Sunil Gavaskar, by no less than Dennis Lillee – and Sunny himself.

His stats don’t quite bear that out and are in fact somewhat flattered by productive series against Australia and the West Indies during World Series Cricket.

But his quality and courage are undeniable and he did score a match winning 114 out of 237, when no other batsman passed 23, at the MCG in 1981 in what was India’s first win on Australian soil.

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His highest Test score of 222 was the cornerstone of the famous three-way 415 run partnership between him, fellow U/V teamer Dilip Vengsarkar (who retired hurt) and Yaspal Sharma.

It was made against a strong attack of Willis, Botham, Dilley and another U/V teamer in Underwood.

5. Dilip Vengsarkar
India, RHB, 116 Tests (10 capt), 6,868 runs at 42.13, 17 100s

The third of India’s three outstanding batsmen of the ’70s and ’80s, Vengsarkar was actually rated the No.1 batsman in the world from 1983 to 1987 against very strong competition.

This was most likely off the back of his genuinely superb record against the West Indies of the era. At one stage in 1989, his record against them was 22 Tests for 1,486 runs at 49.53 with 6 tons.

Vengsarkar also excelled against England – or more accurately, at Lord’s. In his four Tests there he scored three tons and averaged over 70, including his signature 126* in India’s first ever victory there in 1986.

Sadly, Australian crowds never really saw the best of Vengsakar – he only averaged 29 here in 16 Tests without a single century.

6. Bryan Valentine
England, RHB, seven Tests, 454 runs at 64.86, two 100s

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It only takes one look at Valentine’s record to beg the question – how come he only played seven Tests?

There are a few part-answers. Chief among them is the fact that he was competing with the likes of Hammond, Paynter, Leyland and Compton for an England middle order spot in the mid to late ’30s. Tough competition.

His first-class record was also quite modest – 18,306 runs at just over 30.

His runs also came against relatively weak opposition – the first ever Indian team, and on the South African tour where nine players on both sides averaged over 50 for the series.

Indeed, Valentine himself was at the crease in the “Timeless Test” in Durban in 1939 as England were only 41 runs short from chasing down 695.

Then there was the small matter of Adolf Hitler making cricket difficult when Valentine should have been around his prime.

7. Kruger Van Wyk (wk)
New Zealand, RHB, nine Tests, 341 runs at 21.31, 24 dismissals (23/1)

The first player picked for this team due to him being the only wicket keeper who qualified.

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He moved to New Zealand in his 20s after realising that his path to the South African team was somewhat blocked by first Mark Boucher, then AB de Villiers.

It is not clear if Van Wyk knows how to do the haka.

8. Chaminda Vaas
Sri Lanka, LHB, LFM, 111 Tests, 3,089 runs at 24.32, 1 100, 355 wickets at 29.58

Vaas spent much of his career living in Murali’s shadow.

While Vaas generally didn’t mind the made-to-order pitches that his prolific partner excelled upon, where it did hurt him was in his lack of opportunities to take tailend wickets.

Indeed, at 22.8 percent, Vaas has the lowest percentage of numbers 8 to 11 victims of any bowler to have taken 300 wickets. By contrast, Dale Steyn takes 32.6 percent of his wickets in the tail.

Vaas’ record was pretty consistent across all opponents, with only his record against India being genuinely poor. As it was, he achieved some sort of fast bowling immortality by tying Dennis Lillee on the Test wicket takers’ list.

9. Hedley Verity
England, RHB, SLA, 40 Tests, 669 runs at 20.91, 144 wickets at 24.38

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Almost certainly the greatest slow left arm bowler ever.

On top of his fine Test record, where he was responsible for over 10 percent of Sir Donald Bradman’s dismissals, is his mind-boggling first-class record in a high scoring era – 1,956 wickets at 14.90, including the best ever first-class figures of 10 for 10 which got him selected for the Bodyline tour.

His most famous Test performance was in what is known as “Verity’s Test” where he took 15-104 at Lords in 1934 (including 14 wickets in a day) – the only time in the 20th century that England were to win an Ashes Test at the home of cricket.

Verity died in an Italian hospital in 1943, aged 38, unable to recover from a shrapnel wound received in fighting in Sicily.

10. Bill Voce
England, RHB, LFM, 27 Tests, 308 runs at 13.39, 98 wickets at 27.89

A tall, aggressive fast bowler who actually started out in first-class cricket bowling finger spin.

He was, of course, one of the England heroes in the Bodyline series, opening the bowling with his Notts mate Larwood.

The fall out from that series resulted in Voce either not being picked or making himself unavailable for England selection for three seasons, eventually touring Australia again in the famous 1936/7 series.

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In that series, he was far more effective than four years earlier, taking 26 wickets at 21.54.

He made a couple of final appearances after the War. And to round out his career-long enmity with Bradman, he was the aggrieved bowler at the Gabba in 1946 when Bradman refused to walk following an what may or may not have been an edge to first slip. He was controversially given not out.

While Bradman went on to score 187 and later lead The Invincibles, Voce never took another Test wicket.

11. Derek Underwood
England, RHB, SLA/LM, 86 Tests, 937 runs at 11.57, 297 wickets at 25.84

“Deadly” would probably have taken Lance Gibbs’ Test wickets world record if not for his two seasons of World Series Cricket.

He is still England’s highest wicket-taking spinner, although his fast pace meant that he was often played more like a medium pacer.

As his nickname suggests, he could be virtually unplayable on difficult or rain-affected surfaces.

Indeed, if the 1934 Lords Test was “Verity’s Test”, the 1974 one was “Underwood’s Test” – he took 13/71 as rain deprived England of a near certain win.

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His first-classrecord was monumental as well – 2,465 wickets at 20.28 in a 25-season career putting him 14th on the all-time list.

Since he retired, only Courtney Walsh has come within even 700 first-class wickets of that total.